Sep 14, 2021
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Want a naval base on the Red Sea? Pay more!

In the photo: the frigate of the Russian Navy "Admiral Grigorovich" in Port Sudan

In the photo: the frigate of the Russian Navy “Admiral Grigorovich” in Port Sudan (Photo: AP / TASS)

The Sudanese authorities have decided to renegotiate an agreement with Russia on a naval base in Port Sudan on the Red Sea. This is reported by RIA Novosti with reference to a source in the military department of this East African country.

In particular, the official Khartoum expects that in response to the readiness of the Sudanese leadership to place a logistics center for the Russian Navy on the country’s territory, Moscow will provide the republic with economic assistance. At the same time, an agreement for the lease of a plot for the base is signed for a period of five years with the possibility of extension for another twenty-five years.

Recall that according to the initial agreements on the Russian base in the Red Sea (they became known in November 2020), the agreement was to be valid for 25 years with automatic renewal for ten-year periods. For this period, as it was assumed, the Sudanese side will transfer to Russia for free use the territory, including the coastal zone, water area and the zone of the mooring front, as well as the necessary real estate.

True, there was a condition that the maximum number of personnel of the MTO point should not exceed three hundred people, and at the same time no more than four ships could be there.

Actually, the desire of the Sudanese authorities to amend the agreement became known as early as July 1. Then the Chief of Staff of the Sudanese Armed Forces Muhammad Usman al-Hussein announced plans to renegotiate the agreement “Taking into account the interests of the country”… The military leader also noted that after Washington excluded Sudan from the list of accomplices of terrorism, the country will not be limited to military cooperation with Russia and China, since it can now cooperate with the United States and Western states.

Be that as it may, but on July 12 at a press conference following talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Sudan Mariyam al-Mahdi Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Sudanese partners are preparing to ratify the agreement on the Russian naval base “In accordance with the procedures that exist for this purpose in the Sudanese parliament”

As for the Russian side, according to the minister, the new State Duma will be considering the document.

And now the question is, will Russia agree to the new conditions of Sudan?

So far, Moscow has not commented on Khartoum’s proposal. But a source close to the Kremlin told the Federal News Agency that Russia is not going to pay.

According to him, “Proposal from the government Hamdoka has already been announced to the Russian side and we have informed that there can be no question of any trade. At the moment, the Russian Federation does not plan to deploy a base in Port Sudan “

The Sudanese embassy, ​​meanwhile, said that the country did not ask Moscow for economic assistance in exchange for an agreement on a Russian military base. Charge d’Affaires of Sudan in our country Onur Ahmad Onur called the news “unfounded.” And he clarified that Sudan expects to sign the final version of the agreement on the base “in the near future” after making minor changes.

SP asked to comment on the situation Professor of the Faculty of Oriental Studies of St. Petersburg State University, Doctor of Historical Sciences Igor Gerasimov:

– As for our base, we, in fact, have not yet created it. We only studied the possibilities for this, selected a specific place and coordinated all this with the Sudanese side. It seems that the question has not gone further.

Regarding the prospects for cooperation in general, I can say that it is necessary to cooperate with Sudan. Potentially, this is a very interesting country for us. This is agrarian cooperation, as well as possible some kind of humanitarian and educational programs. That is, this country has prospects.

It cannot be said that it is entirely African – it is, after all, an Arab-African country that combines such two powerful civilizations. But now they are having a very difficult period. I would say a turbulent period. Very unstable economy.

Those who became the head of state after the removal of the president Omar al-Bashirwho is a traditional and military leader, they are looking for some kind of maneuvering opportunities. But it seems that these possibilities are, in general, narrow.

The moves of the American administration are just understandable. An attempt is underway to interact with Sudan, let’s say, on terms that are not very favorable for Sudan. But they seem to have nowhere to go.

For them, we are just a certain country (of course, mighty, militarily powerful) with prospects. Therefore, the question of the base, perhaps, they will not completely tear apart. This is a probing of some possibilities of deriving benefit for oneself. This is the only way I see it.

“SP”: – So they do not hide that they are looking for “benefit and benefit” for themselves. But how much do we need this base?

– Given that access to the Red Sea in recent years has become an object of increased attention of countries such as America, France, China (the Chinese already have their base in Djibouti), then by and large, of course, we need to have such a point of presence in this region. Just for strategic reasons.

At one time such a country was Yemen – in particular, Aden and the island of Socotra. But now there is a war in Yemen and it is impossible to create any kind of infrastructure there.

Sudan would be a good option. But if the conditions turn out to be unacceptable, then we cannot make compromises here all the time. Therefore, probably, this issue will simply be postponed, but will not be removed completely.

That is, the current statements of the Sudanese leadership are rather tactical tricks. In the end, I think the parties will return to this. This topic is not complete.

“SP”: – A number of experts associate the current situation with corruption in the highest echelons of the government in Khartoum. Your opinion?

– There really is such a problem. Because this is the nature of the local elite. And it is very difficult to imagine corruption-free development there. For them, this is a form of existence and a form of vision of the state, when there is a patronage of some of their fellow tribesmen, since no one has canceled tribalism in Sudan. Tribal relationships, they were and still are. This, of course, is not Afghanistan, but to a large extent belonging to a tribe, it determines a certain psychology of a person. And if we talk about power, then – unequivocally, since each tribe has its own priorities.

Sudan is a very difficult ethnic and tribal country, so the phenomenon of corruption is very widespread there. They themselves suffer from this, but there is no other form of power there.

“SP”: – Then, perhaps, it is difficult for us to expect that such a problem country will be negotiable?

– I think yes. And since the same Abdallah Hamdock, who came to the leading positions after the removal of al-Bashir, in general, is not a pro-Russian politician, then it is hardly worth expecting some kind of rapprochement. They will balance.

Military expert, captain of the 1st rank in reserve Sergey Ishchenko, in turn, believes that it is impossible to agree to a five-year lease:

– It will take so much time just to build the base, it’s not serious. Russia, naturally, should have its own conditions.

It is clear that Sudan is trading in this case. After all, we have no guarantee that at the same time he does not offer to build the same base for other countries. This is the usual bargaining in the oriental bazaar – who will give more.

And if we are ready to give more, then we will get it. If not, then the Turks will get it (it is known that Turkey is interested) or someone else who will give more.

But we should start from the fact that we really need a base on the Red Sea. And there are few options. Apart from Sudan, in fact they do not exist.

Therefore, it can be predicted that there will be a big bargaining. We will offer the supply of weapons, we will help, perhaps, in the construction of civilian infrastructure. Or some promise of loans.

But, I repeat, the option for five years is completely unacceptable for us. Therefore, in the process of bargaining, most likely, the conditions for the construction of the base will also change.

Such a base is undoubtedly needed. Because this is not only the Red Sea, it is mainly the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf – this base is oriented there and in this sense it is interesting for us.

Sudan, perhaps, is not the best country from this point of view, because there is a really unstable regime, they periodically carry out coups. But you don’t have to choose – there aren’t many options in that area.

“SP”: – Then why already from our side there were statements that bargaining was out of the question. What, in general, do we plan to deploy a base in Port Sudan?

– And this is precisely the element of bargaining on our part. I think that we are simply observing elements of bargaining from both the Kremlin and Sudan. But from the point of view of the Navy and our presence in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, it is clear that we would very much like to have this base there. Moreover, there are few options.

But the Americans don’t want that. If my memory serves me correctly, when there was the first round of this bargaining, then the States just intervened and promised Sudan substantial assistance. It was after this that the Sudanese authorities began to “twist their faces” and say that the agreements with Russia did not mean anything.

But this was influenced by American money. Now they probably want to get something from us as well.

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